Friday, November 30, 2012

Cuba cuts phone fees

Cuba plans to reduce the fees it charges for long-distance calls to the island from the United States.
The announcement, which is below, didn't specify the size of the reduction:
THE COUNCIL OF STATE OF THE REPUBLIC OF CUBA DEROGATES DECREE-LAW No. 213 OF THE YEAR 2000 GOVERNING COMMUNICATIONS BETWEEN CUBA AND THE UNITED STATES.

Charges on international telephone calls between the United States and Cuba shall be thereby reduced.

In the year 2000, the Cuban government issued Decree-Law No. 213, by virtue of which the rates charged per every minute of international telephone calls between the United States and Cuba would be thereby increased. This was a legitimate response to the ripping off of the funds owed to Cuba by American telecommunication companies.

Petition asks for dialogue with Cuba

A new petition asks the White House to hold talks with the Cuban government to secure the release of Alan Gross.
What's interesting about this petition is that

Art therapy for Ninoska

Ninoska Perez, a well-known Miami radio show host and longtime critic of Cuba's socialist government, is also an artist.
She said:
I've always painted, but three years ago I decided to take it seriously and I enjoy it very much. It's therapy!
En español:
Siempre he pintado pero hace tres años decidí tomarmelo en serio y lo disfruto muchísimo. Es la terapia!
Her work will be on display in Miami from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, giving Christmas shoppers plenty of time to check out her work.
Location: Futurama, 1637 SW Calle Ocho (8th St.), Little Havana.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Cuban diplomat: Alan Gross carried out "covert activities"

Cuban Interests Section, Washington, D.C.
José Ramón Cabañas, chief of the Cuban Interests Section in Washington D.C., sent the following letter today to several American lawmakers.

November 28, 2012

Honorable Senator ___________ ,

I am writing to you in relation to the letter dated September 24, 2012, signed by you, which was addressed to our President, Raúl Castro Ruz, regarding the Alan Gross case.

I wish to assure you that the Cuban Government is sensitive to the humanitarian concerns associated to this case and has expressed to the Government of the United States its willingness to find a reciprocal humanitarian solution that would also take into account highly sensitive humanitarian concerns of utmost importance for Cuba and its people.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Cuban Foreign Ministry: Alan Gross is healthy (updated)

Alan Gross: Before and after
Statement by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cuba.

In the afternoon of November 26, 2012, a new meeting was held between diplomats of the United States Interest Section in Havana, including the head of that office, consular officials, the doctor and the nurse of that mission and members of the medical team in charge of providing medical assistance to US citizen Alan Gross, who is serving an imprisonment sentence.

During the meeting, the Cuban specialists offered US officials updated information about the health condition of Mr. Gross, which included the results of a biopsy performed on October 24, 2012 of a lesion located behind his right shoulder, which confirmed it was not carcinogenic.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Eduardo del Llano (part 2)

Transcript of part 2 of interview with Eduardo del Llano, a Cuban writer and director. See part 2 of video.

En películas normalmente las sátiras es sobre Cuba, porque digamos que me es muy difícil reproducir aquí los Estados Unidos, y además porque o sea uno también si va a emprender una empresa tan cara como es hacer cine aunque sea independiente, eh lo hace sobre las cosas de su inmediatez y tal.

Pero mira el justamente largometraje que acabo de terminar ahora este Vince que se estrena ahora en enero no es sobre Cuba ni siquiera de manera soterrada es sobre Leonardo de Vince de verdad.

Por supuesto es un pretexto para decir determinadas tesis para que sirve el arte, para que sirve la belleza, eh como el arte nos salva, la necesidad de la libertad, todas esas cosas pero de una manera universal.

The fate of Alan Gross

Rabbi Elie Abadie
Rabbi Elie Abadie told the Associated Press that he met for two hours today with jailed American Alan Gross and considers him healthy.
If that's true, I doubt Cuban authorities are going to announce tomorrow that Gross is about to be released.
I have no idea what's going to happen. Maybe Gross will be freed. That would be great for him and his family.
But I've thought all along that Gross is too valuable to the Cuban government to be released anytime soon. He's living proof of the interventionist U.S. policies that Castro supporters reject.
My guess is that Cuba's position would change if Gross's health deteriorates or if there's some kind of deal for the Cuban Five.
Alan Gross. Photo: James Berenthal/CBS News
Cuban authorities arrested Gross in December 2009 and accused him of smuggling sophisticated satellite communication gear into the country as part of a broader plan to undermine state security.
His visitor today has a rich and unusual background. Abadie was born in Beirut, Lebanon, grew up in Mexico City and attended college in the United States.
He is both a rabbi and doctor, according to his biography, and practices internal medicine and gastroenterology.

Eduardo del Llano (part 1)

Transcript of part 1 of interview with Eduardo del Llano, a Cuban writer and director. See part 1 of video.

Me llamo Eduardo del Llano soy escritor básicamente y también cineasta, tengo cuarenta y nueve años, eh acá en Cuba y también en algunos países sobre todo de Europa he publicado algunos de mis libros básicamente novelas y compilaciones de cuentos.

La poesía no es mi fuerte, la narración si y en los últimos quince años tales empecé a escribir guiones de cines para otros directores y en los últimos siete años he empezado además a dirigir.

Primero una serie de cortos de diez cortometrajes que es el decálogo de Nicanor, Nicanor es el personaje principal en estos cortos, que es una serie satírica sobre la realidad cubana.

Ninoska Perez

Transcript of interview with Ninoska Perez, a Miami radio talk show host and founding member of the Cuban Liberty Council. See video.

El movimiento se esta poniendo fuerte en convicciones y en las cantidades de personas que se unen a él, pero como todo movimiento opositor de un país que lo controla todo es sumamente difícil para ese movimiento poder llevar a cabo sus actividades.
Actividades pacificas como Damas de Blanco marchar pacíficamente, el resultado es que son golpeadas, arrastradas.
El mismo caso de las mujeres que han ido a protestar como Sara Martha Fonseca, eh con un simple letrero para decirle al pueblo cual es la realidad.
Hemos visto cambios en la actitud de las personas y creo que ya las personas comienzan a responder, pero es como todo están dentro de un país, donde hay un régimen que lo controla todo y que el resultado es que los arresta constantemente y que los puede aplastar en cualquier momento.
Así que es una labor sumamente difícil pero es una labor que se esta realizando, que es lo importante y yo creo que va en crecimiento.

Ricardo Martínez-Cid

Ricardo Martínez-Cid. See video. He is one of four Miami lawyers who has been working on a campaign called Cuba, Repression ID, aimed at identifying and naming Cuban security agents and government supporters who confront Cuban dissidents.

La idea, la idea nace de un amigo y compañero de muchos años que es Wilfredo Allen, en un almuerzo, nosotros almorzamos con mucha regularidad y en uno de esos almuerzos pues siempre nos planteamos que hacer.
Y que le comentaba que hemos estado décadas buscando una forma de incidir edificantemente en la problemática cubana porque de alguna forma todos somos víctimas o parte de ella.
Wilfredo pues en uno de esos almuerzos se le ocurre, de que veíamos lo indefensa que estaban las señoras de las damas en blanco, cuando transitaban por la Habana como las humillaban como las golpeaban como las hacían padecer.
Y se le ocurrió que por lo menos lo que podíamos hacer con las imágenes que gracias a la nueva revolución tecnológica han ido llegando a nuestras manos es crear un archivo en el cual se pudiese documentar la identidad de los represores que abusaban de ellas con miras básicamente a que empezaran a cuestionar su conducta y se fuese describiendo la impunidad en la que han operado en los últimos 50 años de la historia de Cuba.

Yirian García

Transcript of interview with Yirian García de la Torre. See video. García, who lives in Havana, has several blogs, including:


Editor's note: García showed moxie, keeping our appointment for the interview even though she had just suffered burns to her face in an accident.

Bueno yo agradezco muchísimo este encuentro porque es una oportunidad más que tenemos de conversar y de compartir además de todo lo virtual que se pueda compartir en el mundo de hoy.
Pienso que el contacto personal nunca va a perder esa belleza no, eh conocí por allá por el dos mil cinco muchas experiencias que venían más o menos de los blog de Irak y otras tantas experiencias que habían ya en ese tiempo.
Y que nosotros un grupo de periodistas, los más atrevidos quizás los que más contactos podíamos tener con ellos, pues por las mismas razones de trabajo o por las curiosidades que a veces le dan a uno de buscar, de hacer, de encontrar otras vías aprendimos, decidimos incorporarnos a cursos y a capacitaciones que nos hablaran sobre el tema no.

José Fuster

Transcript of interview with Cuban artist José Fuster. See video.

Esta obra que se llama el Olimpo de los Cinco, es un titulo que le puso el mismo pueblo, la misma comunidad de aquí de Jaimanita, porque cuando estaba haciendo esta obra, que la motivación fue los diez años que se cumplían del injusto encarcelamiento de los Cinco cubanos acusados de espionaje, y en definitiva lo único que se ha demostrado que son acusados por ser antiterroristas, no.

Porque cuando uno comienza y piensa en todas las vidas, no solamente de cubanos y de panameños y de ciudadanos del mundo que ellos le han salvado la vida, no, porque si los terroristas se salen con sus planes hubieran matado a muchas personas.

Rodiles vows to fight on

 Antonio Rodiles was freed Monday after spending 19 days in jail. These photos are from the Facebook page of Estado de Sats, the civic group that Rodiles directs in Havana.

In a Q&A with Café Fuerte, Rodiles said about a dozen people beat and kicked him when he was arrested.
Authorities say he resisted arrest. Rodiles denies that and said he will continue his work with Estado de Sats. According to Translating Cuba, which translated his interview with Café Fuerte, Rodiles said:
The project of course will continue and I would say even more forecefully. The idea of the project Estado de Sats, of the campaign “For Another Cuba,” has to do with respect for the rights of Cubans, with respect for the human being first and foremost, with the opportunity to debate, to openly discuss, and I think that with this beating this was the main thing they showed me: this way is the way for Cuba to change, and clearly violence is the enemy. Now more than ever I believe that the work requires total dedication.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Elizardo Sanchez

Transcript of interview with Elizardo Sanchez, head of an opposition group called the Comisión Cubana de Derechos Humanos y Reconciliación Nacional.

Como tu sabes los regímenes totalitarios basados en estos modelos de tipos neostalinistas son eh relativamente estables se pueden mantener el control durante mucho tiempo sobre todo utilizando la intimidación, estos son regímenes con una enorme capacidad de intimidación contra toda la población.
Ahora mismo el gobierno reprime por motivos políticos a una minoría que somos los disidentes, activistas de derechos humanos u opositores políticos que actuamos abiertamente en las calles somos bueno varios miles.
Pero el gobierno reprime a toda la sociedad, de muchas maneras, a la juventud a los que tratan de vender algo por las calles, a los pescadores que pescan y luego quieren vender el pescado eh, bueno a diversos sectores, a los gay de alguna manera, a los transexuales, ahora existe este ruido aquí.
Bueno voy a empezar de nuevo, reprime a la sociedad sector, a cada sector de la sociedad de alguna manera.

Convicted agent's wife: "Obama could do justice"

Elizabeth Palmeiro, wife of Ramón Labañino
Cuba's Foreign Ministry today held an online forum about the Cuban Five. Relatives of the five convicted Cuban agents were among those answering questions from forum participants. I asked whether the State Department might change its stance on the Cuban Five in light of Barack Obama's re-election.
Elizabeth Palmeiro, the wife of convicted agent Ramón Labañino, replied:
Mis saludos agradecidos en nombre de todo los familiares de los Cinco.
Es nuestra fe absoluta que se impondrá la justicia en el caso de los Cinco, creemos que en este segundo mandato, Obama pudiera hacer justicia, pero eso solo será posible con la presión internacional de los miles de amigos que se han unido a esta campaña y los muchos que aun no se han sumado por el silencio mediático que ha existido adicionalmente a nuestros familiares.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

$11 million for clandestine work in Costa Rica?

Click to enlarge
In 2008, Creative Associates International received the first installment of what was to be a three-year $15,535,979 contract with the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Creative Associates had a delicate task: To set up a secret base in Costa Rica and run a program there to support democracy activists in Cuba.
The private, for-profit contractor, located at 5301 Wisconsin Ave., NW, Suite 700, was managing the program on behalf of the State Department's little-known Office of Transition Initiatives or OTI.

Iroel Sanchez

Transcript of interview with Iroel Sanchez, former president of Cuba's Instituto del Libro. See video. Sanchez works for the Oficina para la Informatización, which is under Cuba's Ministerio de la Informática y las Comunicaciones. His blog is called La Pupila Insomne.

Desde hace mucho tiempo, yo siempre he leído mucha información, y por razones de mi trabajo y como miembro de la Unión de Periodistas en Cuba tengo acceso a la red. Y bueno, también en el último periodo he estado trabajando con proyectos en la Red, primero en una revista, no se si la conoces, que se llama La Jiribilla, con otros compañeros fundamos ese proyecto.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Interests Section goes nuts over screws

Click to enlarge
U.S. Interests Section spending per year for fuel, furniture, equipment, paint and other supplies has varied greatly over the past 10 years, hitting a peak of $1.4 million in 2006.
Budget documents show everything from air conditioners and plumbing equipment to the curious purchase of $3,548.76 in screws from a Lake Forest, Ill., hardware company in April 2012.
I posted Excel files showing Interests Section spending from 2003 to 2012. You can download  reports for the following fiscal years:

La Joven Cuba (part 4)

Transcript of Dec. 17, 2011, interview with the creators of La Joven Cuba blog in Matanzas, Cuba.
This is the fourth of four parts. See video.
Shown in the interview, from left to right, are Osmany Sánchez, Roberto González Peralo and Harold Cárdenas.

Que cada cual tiene que coger su papel en el lugar que le toque, de acuerdo.
Y para llegar a un nivel de dirección de primer nivel yo creo que en Cuba hay que tener un cierto nivel de experiencias porque para manejar la sociedad cubana, no cualquiera puede manejarla sociedad cubana.
Y cuando tu ves a la Asamblea Nacional un joven de veintisiete años en la Asamblea Nacional, pero que eh comparte conmigo una litera, tú dices bueno que tanto tú estas diciendo de la edad en este sentido.

La Joven Cuba (part 3)

Transcript of Dec. 17, 2011, interview with the creators of La Joven Cuba blog in Matanzas, Cuba.
This is the third of four parts. See video.
Shown in the interview, from left to right, are Osmany Sánchez, Roberto González Peralo and Harold Cárdenas.

Si, si hoy mismo, hoy yo pase, hoy yo pase por una casa o sea cuando fui al agro a buscar vianda, a buscar eh la comida de la semana, yo aprovecho el fin de semana que es cuando tengo el tiempo.
Y si se ve constantemente en las casas se vende, se permuta es una opción que la gente estaba pidiendo y que bueno ya se hizo realidad no.
Es una de las opciones yo creo que ha sido una de las opciones que más acogida dentro de las personas, es la posibilidad, es la posibilidad de hacer legalmente lo que antes de todas formas muchas personas hacían de manera ilegal y lo que generaba entonces era un gran problema no o sea no tiene.

"Cuban Thunder" now available in 50 countries

Christopher Baker. Photo: Everett Potter's Travel Report
Thank you to Christopher Baker for mentioning my book "Cuban Thunder: Harley-Davidson in Cuba" on his Moon Travel Guides blog.
Baker, an award-winning travel writer, is leading 10- and 15-day motorcycle tours in Cuba in December, January and February. See MotoDiscovery for details.
"Cuban Thunder" was released in August. You can read more about it here. The book was made for iPad, contains more than 1,000 photos and costs $5.99. It is now available in 50 countries, listed below.
  • Argentina
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bolivia
  • Brazil
  • Bulgaria
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • El Salvador
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany

Cuba money: $6.7 million for artists, writers



The Office of Cuba Broadcasting gave $6,781,861.30 to writers, artists, journalists, analysts and others from Jan. 15, 2001, to Nov. 21, 2012.
I suspect that only a tiny fraction of this money reaches journalists and others in Cuba. The contracts list $33,195 for miscellaneous foreign contractors. That money was paid from Oct. 19, 2011, to Nov. 21, 2012.
I plotted the contracts on a map, above. See the data and map of vendor cities here in Google Docs, where it's easier to scroll through the names and numbers.
These contracts fall under a category entitled, "Independent Artists, Writers and Performers."
In PDF form, the contracts fill 1,197 pages (download PDF). Or download a csv table containing the contracts. You can use Excel or Numbers to read it, although it's a large file and may cause the program to crash.

La Joven Cuba (part 2)

Transcript of Dec. 17, 2011, interview with the creators of La Joven Cuba blog in Matanzas, Cuba.
This is the second of four parts. See video.
Shown in the interview, from left to right, are Osmany Sánchez, Roberto González Peralo and Harold Cárdenas.

Bueno hace unos días yo comentaba en el blog, a mi me es muy difícil, a nosotros no es muy difícil comentar en el blog, a veces el que comenta nos hace una pregunta directa sobre un tema y después dice se desapareció, pero es que nos he muy difícil comentar en el blog.
Pero que sucede yo tuve un buen rato esperando a que se cargara la pagina para responder un comentario, alguien dijo bromeando con Harold porque Harold puso que tenia un yeso en el pie y alguien puso, Harold ten cuidado que uno nunca sabe cuando tiene que salir corriendo.
Una broma no, una broma vamos a pensar en una broma y uno de los comentaristas después, una de las comentaristas puso, Harold no, tato que es como comento en el bloc, tato o sea es que va a salir corriendo algún día porque es un intolerante o algo así.

La Joven Cuba (part 1)

Transcript of Dec. 17, 2011, interview with the creators of La Joven Cuba blog in Matanzas, Cuba.
This is the first of four parts. See video.
Shown in the interview, from left to right, are Osmany Sánchez, Roberto González Peralo and Harold Cárdenas.

Bien, cual es la idea, nosotros originalmente desde que hicimos el blog lo hicimos con dos objetivos expreso que lo hemos dicho en varias ocasiones no , en primer lugar seria defender la revolución y en segundo lugar mejorar la revolución creo que siempre ha sido en ese sentido.
Lo que nos hemos dado cuenta en esta historia en que hay que democratizar mucho los espacios en Cuba, de opinión sobre la revolución, porque tenemos un problema tecnológico muy grande eso es indiscutible y entonces cómo hacemos llegar, eh la Joven Cuba a los jóvenes cubanos.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

David Rivera (Spanish translation)

Spanish translation of December 2011 interview with then-U.S. Rep. David Rivera. See video. En diciembre de 2011 Rivera participa en un acto dedicado a demandar la liberación de tres prisioneros políticos en Cuba, Ivonne Malleza, Isabel Haydee e Ignacio Martínez
Bien, siempre es importante expresar nuestra solidaridad con aquellos valientes hombres y mujeres que están dentro de Cuba y que están dispuestos a arriesgar todo, sus vidas, su libertad en favor de la causa de una Cuba libre y democrática.
Existen muchos, muchos líderes de la oposición y activistas disidentes que se oponen a la dictadura de Castro dentro de Cuba y que son encarcelados todos los días y nosotros aquí, fuera de Cuba, tenemos que difundir siempre el mensaje de que hay personas, héroes, dentro de Cuba dispuestos a arriesgarlo todo por el futuro de ese país.

David Rivera

Transcript of December 2011 interview with then-U.S. Rep. David Rivera. See video. Rivera, who lost the November 2012 election to Democrat Joe Rivera, was attending a December 2011 rally aimed at demanding the release of three prisoners in Cuba: Ivonne Malleza, Isabel Haydee and Ignacio Martínez.
Well, it´s important to always express our solidarity with those braves men and woman that are inside Cuba that are willing to risk everything, willing to risk their lives, willing to risk their freedom for the cause of free and democratic Cuba.
There are many many opposition leaders and dissident activists that are opposing the Castro dictatorship inside Cuba that have been jailed every day, and we here outside of Cuba need to be always spreading the message, that there are people, heroes, inside Cuba willing to risk everything for the future of that country.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Applied Memetics redirect (updated)

Applied Memetics from Tracey Eaton on Vimeo.

On Nov. 18, I wrote that a former CIA agent had gotten a government contract to manage a team of journalists in Cuba.
Today I clicked on the ex-agent's company website, Applied Memetics, and was surprised to see that it had been redirected to Along the Malecón.
Thanks for the traffic!
Update:
Later in the day, the URL was parked at GoDaddy and by Nov. 20 the site was back up.


Contractor lost $21 million in ill-fated Cuba project

Click to enlarge
American Alan Gross says a Maryland contractor's reckless desire for profit led to hasty decisions that may have made it easier for Cuban authorities to capture him in December 2009.
Authorities jailed Gross while he was carrying out work under a USAID contract called, "Cuba Democracy and Contingency Planning Program."
Published reports say Gross received more than $500,000 for his work, which involved setting up satellite Internet connections in Cuba that didn't depend on the government network.
Development Alternatives Inc., or DAI, of Bethesda, Md., hired Gross to carry out the work.
I looked at contract information available in public records (See PDF of records) and it appears to me that DAI lost at least $21,452,813 in future receipts after Gross was arrested and USAID cancelled the contract.

Monday, November 19, 2012

USAID: "No evidence of negligence" in Gross case

USAID: "No negligence"
The U.S. Agency for International Development said Alan Gross was not entitled to compensation under the Federal Tort Claims Act, or FTCA, because the law does not apply for employment in a foreign country, according to a letter filed in the former subcontractor's lawsuit against the agency.
USAID said in a May 22 letter:
In addition, after a thorough review of the available facts, we have found no evidence of any negligence of any employee of USAID that is compensable under the FTCA.
Gross was a subcontractor for Development Alternatives, Inc., when Cuban authorities arrested him in December 2009. On Nov. 16, he and his wife, Judy, sued DAI and the federal government for $60 million. Court records in the case are now online (See 62-page PDF).

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Ex-CIA agent leads new team of journalists in Cuba

The U.S. government has hired a former CIA agent to create and manage a team of at least 10 journalists in Cuba, contract records show.
Daniel Gabriel has exceptional qualifications. He is a former operations assistant at CNN who later joined the CIA and completed six tours to Afghanistan and Iraq in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
His biography describes him as a former CIA covert action officer who spent 10 years "countering violent-extremism, directing counter-insurgency operations, and developing and benchmarking counter-radicalization theory and methodology in the Islamic world."
According to his LinkedIn profile:
Gabriel helped pioneer the use of social media in war-fighting and political conflict, and he was an early advocate for incorporating social media metrics into predictive intelligence and risk analysis. He is a subject matter expert and original researcher of interactive digital media strategies, social network analysis, international media research, text analytics, latent semantic indexing, strategic planning techniques, operational and organizational design, and complex system dynamics.
Quincy Street
One colleague raved:
Keep your eyes glued to this guy - he rocks.
Gabriel is the founding partner of Applied Memetics, located at 888 Quincy St., Suite 1901, in Arlington, Va.
  • A Sept. 26 contract shows that the Broadcasting Board of Governors, or BBG, agreed to pay Applied Memetics $9,909 for work performed from Sept. 26 to Nov. 15.
  • A Nov. 14 document shows the contract was modified to include options extending the contract to Oct. 31, 2016.

Woman alleges sexual harassment at DAI

An exchange between Heather Rome and DAI lawyer Kathleen Williams
A former employee for a major U.S. government contractor in Venezuela said her male boss harassed and screamed at female subordinates and complained that their office was "as inefficient as a brothel."
Employee Heather Rome sued Development Alternatives Inc., or DAI, in 2011 and is asking for $600,000 in damages. A discovery hearing in the case is scheduled for Dec. 17, 2012.
DAI had been managing a multimillion-dollar contract aimed at undermining the government of Hugo Chavez.
Rome accused the head of DAI's Venezuela project, Eduardo Fernandez, of maintaining a hostile work environment, according to the lawsuit, filed on Oct. 18, 2011 (see lawsuit and 300-plus pages of court documents). The suit alleges:
...DAI took minimal actions to stop the abusive and and inappropriate behavior.
On Dec. 21, 2011, DAI denied Rome's accusation and said the company took prompt remedial action after Rome complained about Fernandez.
DAI grants. Source: Fedspending.org
The U.S. Agency for International Development has awarded $4,194,371,589 in contracts to DAI since 2000 for work in far-flung spots around the globe, including Cuba.
Rome said after she reported Fernandez's conduct, DAI retaliated and fired her.
DAI said Rome resigned voluntarily.
In the lawsuit, Rome cited the following examples of harassment, taken verbatim from court documents:

  • Fernandez complained to his staff "If you would just keep the pill between your knees I wouldn't have to waste money paying for maternity insurance." Office staff was offended that their boss was inquiring about their sexual activity in a manner that "even their fathers did not do."
  • One staff member wore a knee length skirt with a slit. Uncomfortable with Fernandez's wandering eyes, she put butterfly binder clips on her skirt to close the slit. A few days later Fernandez asked her when she would be wearing the butterfly skirt again. Many staff members refuse to wear skirts to the office for this reason.
  • Fernandez constantly referred to women by placing his hands in front of his chest to indicate breasts.
  • Fernandez complained that "This office is as inefficient as a brothel."
  • Rather than tell his four female staff members that they were taking too long of a lunch, his proposed solution was to "tell them they are getting fat - that way they won't take lunch at all."
  • Fernandez continued to publicly scream at will.
  • Fernandez informed staff that they are inadequate and that is why they will forever live in a developing country.
  • Fernandez boldly told staff he could fire them if they contacted Human Resources again to complain about him.
The employee discrimination lawsuit contends that Rome's complaints did not improve the work environment in Caracas and Fernandez was left in place as the project's chief of party. Company managers reportedly told her to consider it a "learning experience" and "cope with it."

Rome's lawyer, Donald J. Walsh, of Ownings Mills, Md., wrote:
Ms. Rome was labeled a problem employee for having brought this to their attention, told she needed to undergo a major attitude change and that she needed to work on creating 'kumbaya' in the office.
The lawsuit said Fernandez's behavior then grew worse. He reportedly told staff, "I am who I am and I am not going to change" so you better get used to it.
Fernandez also called Rome to his office, the lawsuit said, and accused her of "stabbing him in the back and throwing him to the dogs."
The lawsuit paraphrased him as saying:

  • What right did she have in speaking with HR anyway?
  • Actually, what right did anybody in the project office have in speaking with HR?
  • Ms. Rome caused him a heart attack which required a trip to the ER.
  • If Ms. Rome didn't send a letter to HR right away essentially apologizing for all this nonsense, they were going to come down here and fire both of them.
The suit said: 
DAI's alleged commitment to integrity and a workplace full of fairness and honesty were a sham.
The lawsuit said one company official, Bernadette Channer, wrote Rome a message of support, but said she had no power to make changes. Channer wrote:
I want to assure you that I feel the same way and that I had very little influence at the end.
In a memo cited in the lawsuit, Channer said she worried the office environment would not improve as long as Fernandez was there. She wrote:
It is however very apparent that Eduardo demonstrates unacceptable behaviors that are in conflict with DAI norms and values. His behavior also puts DAI at risk of having a discrimination and or harassment charge brought against the organization ... After looking at all the facts that were presented to me by current and past employees, I find the following:
Eduardo demonstrated behaviors that are unacceptable and by his own admission would be difficult to alter (he made it clear to me directly that he is who he is and that he would not change). This confirms my concern that if he was able to alter any of his behaviors, how long would be be able to keep it up and are we not just delaying the inevitable by allowing him to continue. The risk is that any one of the employees may decide to take action against DAI, if we allow him to continue as the COP (Chief Of Party).
Email from court files
Rome left Venezuela in 2008. The lawsuit said:
After she left, Fernandez continued to belittle women in the office and retaliate against Ms. Rome for having come forward about his behavior. He fabricated many lies and made many false statements about her such as she stole money from DAI, that she did not want to pay the staff in dollars despite Fernandez's efforts, that she was bipolar and "went crazy," that her family treated Latinos like white trash, and that she was incompetent at her job. These comments were made to DAI personnel as well as to employees at the State Department and in DC.
Rome later expressed her frustration in a court deposition:
Several people said how do we - what do we do about this? What their - the sentiment was, we're proud to be working on this project. We print the checks; we know how much money is being spent. The U.S. government is working so hard to - and DAI - to help us change the democratic situation of our country, and to help make it more democratic than Chavez is willing. And yet, we don't understand how they can create a civil society when we have our only (own) little mini Chavez here in the office, and they don't care about us.
Rome added that office productivity dropped because female employees "were crying in my office a lot."
She asked for compensatory and general damages of $300,000 and punitive damages of $300,000.

Link:
A Wikileaks memo that quotes an Eduardo Fernandez as saying "all these people" - the anti-Chavez protesters - were DAI grantees.

Leaked jailhouse photo of Cuban activist (updated)

Antonio Rodiles
A grainy photo of jailed democracy activist Antonio Rodiles is spreading quickly on Facebook and other social media networks.
Rodiles is director of a democracy group called Estado de Sats. Cuban authorities arrested him and several dozen other activists on Nov. 7 and 8.
Estado de Sats has now posted a leaked jailhouse photo of Rodiles on the group's Facebook page along with this explanation:
A few moments ago, we found in the garden of the house a little white package with a flash memory containing this photograph of Antonio in the prison cell. We don't know the source, but thanks!
Links:
Update:
A reader asked if the photo has been altered. I don't know the answer to that, but uploaded the image to Photoshopped Image Killer and all it detected was that the white balance has been adjusted - see below.
Screenshot of Photoshopped Image Killer page


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Monster USAID doc: 4,000-plus pages

Really? 4,000 pages? Forget it...
If you're interested in a little light reading, I pulled together a huge PDF, more than 4,000 pages of USAID policy directives and required procedures on everything from countersurveillance to breastfeeding.
The glossary alone is 314 pages. That shouldn't be surprising, I suppose. The State Department and USAID together are a sprawling bureaucracy with a budget of $51.6 billion, surpassing the gross domestic product of more than 120 nations and territories.
Download the jumbo USAID document here (58 MB). Or go to USAID's website that offers chapter by chapter downloads.

Alan Gross saga: Who is to blame?

Screenshot of JBDC website
Alan Gross blames his former employer and the federal government for failing to protect him while he carried out a mission in Cuba. He went to Cuba to help set up satellite Internet connections and wound up in prison, facing the prospect of life behind bars.
But I can't imagine that Gross didn't have a sense for the risks of working in Cuba. He had been in hot spots before. He had worked in more than 50 countries, including Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Russia, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Morocco, Yemen and Haiti.
Photo from Alan Gross's
Panoramio site
He had evidently traveled to Cuba, too, before going there as a USAID subcontractor in 2009. (For detailed information on Gross's company, JBDC, see this 5-page statement of corporate capabilities dated January 2009).
Gross listed "humanitarian activities in Cuba" on his 2005 tax records. (See his company's form 990s for tax years 20032004 and 2005).
That said, I find it plausible that his employer, DAI, and USAID failed to give him enough support while he was carrying out his work in Cuba.
USAID may not have complied with its own counterintelligence manual (see 22-page document), failing to detect and adjust to the threat level in Cuba.
It certainly seems that both DAI and USAID abandoned Gross at some point after his arrest in Cuba and Gross's wife, Judy, took action, hiring Washington lawyer Scott D. Gilbert.
At first, the two sides tried to resolve the matter quietly.
On April 19, 2010, USAID offered to pay Judy Gross $202,000 "in exchange for a full release of liability," Gilbert wrote in a Dec. 2, 2011, letter to USAID.
From Gross's Panoramio site
"Mrs. Gross refused and on June 18, 2010, USAID authorized payment of that amount without resolving Mrs. Gross's claim against USAID," Gilbert wrote.
"Although we appreciate the interim payment by USAID, the sum paid does not begin to compensate Mrs. Gross for the harm she has suffered and continues to suffer because of USAID's conduct."
In their conversations with USAID in December 2011, Gilbert asked USAID to pay damages of $10 million for Judy Gross and $20 million for Alan Gross.
On Nov. 16, the Gross family sued DIA and USAID and the amount requested climbed to $60 million, according to Reuters and other news organizations. I haven't seen that number listed in any of the court documents (See lawsuit).
The Gross lawsuit says DAI only cared about profits, rushed the Internet project despite Gross's safety concerns and threatened to pass the contract to someone else if he couldn't get the job done.

Gilbert's December 2011 letter to USAID states:
The detention and imprisonment of Mr. Gross are the direct consequence of the reckless and grossly negligent conduct of USAID.

Friday, November 16, 2012

USAID wanted to establish base in Cuba

Alan and Judy Gross. Photo: AP
The U.S. Agency for International Development and a Maryland development company ignored an American man's warnings about the risks of working in Cuba in the months leading to his 2009 arrest, according to a lawsuit filed today.
Alan Gross and his wife Judy are suing USAID and DAI of Bethesda, Md., for $60 million. Their suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., said DAI showed "willful disregard for Mr. Gross' rights and safety." (Download lawsuit and December 2011 claim for damages from Gross family lawyer to USAID. H/T El Nuevo Herald).
The lawsuit said DAI failed to disclose the risks that Gross faced, put profits before safety and did nothing even after Gross repeatedly "expressed concerns about the operation."
The lawsuit also claims that USAID violated its own internal directives, failing to prevent Cuban authorities from arresting Gross.
DAI had no immediate response. A State Department spokeswoman said she hadn't seen the lawsuit and had no comment.
USAID had given DAI the authority to “establish operations supporting the creation of a USAID Mission" in Cuba. According to the company's agreement with USAID, DAI was to:
Develop and . . . activate plans for launching a rapid-response programmatic platform that will meet USAID’s interest for having and coordinating an on-island presence.

Alan Gross bombshell: Lawsuit against DAI and Uncle Sam

Download PDF of complaint